This is a blog post I have been thinking about all day, the subject was a suggestion from a friend. As a result I have been wracking my brain for examples from my own life. Interestingly I remembered examples that show both sides of this post.
The post is around how we deal with the prospect of blending in, not being noticed, not standing out from the crowd, and the opposite standing out to blend in. Once I flicked past all of the times I have done this in my personal life (this post would be huge if we went into all of those) I focussed more around work.
In a previous post I wrote about Personal Brand and how I tend to dress for work, now I will expand on that a little then go back on topic. Usually for work I wear chino’s and a polo shirt, sometimes a shirt, often jeans and a shirt or jumper. Fridays jeans and a Tshirt. On very odd occasions trousers, a jacket and a shirt, very very rarely I wear a suit and tie (none of my current colleagues reading this will ever remember seeing that).
That covers a wide range of different options for outfits, covers many of my personalities, and a lots of the Ego states I mentioned a few posts back (Egos). But how do I use these different styles of dressing, which allow me to be a chameleon and blend in, which allow me to stand out.
First off I guess, I should touch on why we dress in a certain way, we either want to blend in or stand out. Which we want is situational, and depends on what we are wanting to achieve.
If I am going to an event, conference, meeting, function etc etc, I occasionally worry about will I fit in, what will everyone be like? My self doubt will kick in and make me wonder if I have a right to be there, will people question me, am I qualified and experienced enough in my field to be here.
As part of this I will decide what everyone is likely to be wearing, and how I can blend in to not be noticed, another face in the masses. Sometimes this is easier than others, formal events help here, black tie or lounge suit events. Almost identical looks will be there, with maybe ties, socks, cufflinks and pocket squares (which seem to be making a comeback right now) being used to inject some personality.
By mimicking the look of others, I know I won’t stand out, I won’t catch anyones eye, I can blend in and fade into the background, avoiding conversations with those confident people who can walk up to a stranger and spark up a chat.
The exception to this is when I am on a panel, giving an award or speaking. In those circumstances I will wear something similar to others, but that doesn’t quite conform. Mismatched jacket and trousers, brightly coloured or bold shirt, definitely with distinctive cufflinks and very bright socks (There is another blog post – the reason for my sock choices and what they tell you).
My inner introvert will hate these, but they will give me the confidence that I am displaying a little of me, because I know that for a period of time I will be the focus of attention. In the time leading up to this, it helps me to know that I have made a choice, and that choice is why people are looking at me. Interestingly this is a strategy that both me and my friend both deploy, they wear something slightly off key as their choice.
Day to day
So back to the ordinary, every day workday. What do I get from my outfit choices on those days?
Mostly the same thing, I match what I wear to the level of comfort that I want, compared with the expectation that others will have. For the most part I choose what I wear for comfort and practicality, I am in no way vain or interested in how I look, as most people who have seen me will tell you.
Most of the time I am different to those around me in how I dress. We are all governed by the same dress code, but we apply it differently. For me I stray right down to the casual end of it and snuggle down there in my comfort zone.
What this also does is allow me to see and judge others. A lot of people have very interesting reactions, and their attitudes change. People will always judge, that is part of our society. But it is interesting how they react.
Some people it is just looks, others seem to judge my ability, others assume superiority. This always amuses me and I find it a nice game to play.
Two things to end on.
Several times across my blog I have spoken of my admiration of Steve Jobs and his methods and views. He believed that each person has only so many decisions to make in a day. So he wore the same kind of clothes every day. Black Turtleneck, blue 501’s. This meant he didn’t waste any of his decisions on what to wear.
How do you choose what to wear to work?
Is it conformity, to be a chameleon, to stand out?
Or actually do you just choose something you think looks good and not think of anything else?
When I’m working with people who are anxious about public speaking (giving a presentation at a conference, for instance) I often find it helps if they wear something they wouldn’t usually wear. It’s like being an actor putting on a costume. So you can pretend briefly that you’re someone else, and if the audience is judgy it’s judging the part you’ve playing, not you.
Thats great advice, reminds me of a story from someone very successful about dresses and red shoes.